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Governor’s Policy Analyst Celebrates South Dakota’s Low Population

I’m worried that South Dakota may not be getting its money’s worth from Governor Kristi Noem’s high-priced policy analyst Kennedy Noem. After jetting to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, analyst Noem offered the public this top-level view of the characteristics she thinks South Dakota policies should support:

Policy analysts Kennedy Noem, FB post from NYC 2019.11.30.
Policy analysts Kennedy Noem, FB post from NYC, 2019.11.30.

Wide open spaces—sure! I think we all can appreciate healthy expanses of native and restored prairie grasses and undisturbed mountain forests. But not one responsible public official or economic developer is sitting in her office in any town in South Dakota saying, “It’s too darn bad our population is so big.” Low population means less power in the House of Representatives, insufficient workforce, less economic growth, less sales tax and other revenue to support policy initiatives….

Maybe analyst Noem just thinks that having fewer people around makes it easier to hunt without worrying about accidentally shooting somebody. Maybe analyst Noem just wishes we could selectively suppress the population by getting rid of the growing number of people who disapprove of her boss’s job performance. Maybe analyst Noem is just glad not have lots of competition for her well-paying job.

A small-town mindset may make for aw-cute Facebook posts, but it contradicts the essence of her boss’s vague economic development goals. It doesn’t make sense to one moment say, “We want lots of people to come here and do business!” and the next to say, “Thank goodness there aren’t more people around here!”

If you don’t like having people around, maybe public service isn’t the right job for you.


  1. Nick Nemec 2020-01-24 07:58

    Was Miss Kennedy in NYC for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on her own dime as a vacation/long weekend get away, or was she there in an official capacity as part of her job as a senior policy analyst? The SD Dept. of Tourism pays big bucks to sponsor a float in that parade, are a certain number of front row center seats available to the department as part of the float sponsor package? Who are the other five people who appear to be part of the entourage are they state employees on official business or Kennedy’s pals? Who pays for flights and hotel rooms in the biggest city in the country on the busiest weekend of the year? Is all this really necessary?

  2. Mark 2020-01-24 08:14

    It’s really unfortunate that because of her mother, I have absolutely NO interest in
    anything young Ms. Noem might have to say.
    She might be a bright , interesting, and
    visionary person that has a great future
    in politics.
    On the other hand, she might be a Red Neck , Dope Princess that has the vision
    of her Dope Queen mother.
    I’m betting on the latter.

  3. David Hubbard 2020-01-24 09:52

    Well, her view is contrary to the efforts made by South Dakota to bring former, successful residents back to our state.

    If you do not want South Dakota to grow you are part of the problem. There are a great many things I love about South Dakota, which is why I have come back to my home state to live and eventually retire. But we could be more than what we are and it’s that sort of mind set that continues to, “Hollow Out the Middle.”

    Here’s a book I suggest Kennedy reads:

  4. Debbo 2020-01-24 20:04

    Good resource David. What they say about adults urging young ones to go is true. I’ve seen it many times. They know there is nothing for their bright, curious, adventurous children in SD.

    This state is suited to people who are more fearful, a little dull and easily satisfied. Still, South Dakotans who don’t fit the latter definition stay and work tirelessly to move the state closer to its potential. I applaud those folks.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-01-24 20:37

    Sure, it’s necessary, Nick! If we’re going to have a policy of buying floats in the Macy’s Parade, we need to have at least one analyst on the scene to analyze whether the policy is working.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-01-24 20:48

    The book David points us to looks good. Too bad the Noems aren’t big on book-learnin’.

    One of that book’s authors, Dr. Carr, also speaks in this 2017 article from The Atlantic. The article discusses the idea that small towns, or at least small-town values, are essential to democracy. But it’s hard to persuade young people to move back to small towns just for values when there aren’t job opportunities and cultural events and thoughtful neighbors willing to engage you and your your new, creative ideas. And people can foster small-town values in big cities in their neighborhoods, among the people they live close to and share fate with and choose to care about.

    Low population isn’t the answer to whatever ails South Dakota. In man places, low population is exactly the problem, allowing small-minded clans to rule the roost and stifle outside ideas and challenges to the status quo with scarcity mentalities and parochialism.

  7. Porter Lansing 2020-01-24 21:12

    People like me are your problem. We young SD liberals were selfish and moved away, leaving y’all to face the Republican majority on your own.

  8. Debbo 2020-01-24 21:32

    Large cities are a collection of small towns. That’s what neighborhoods are.

    There might be a corner store that is much like the country stores I grew up with. There’s probably a gas station and a hardware store. Oh yeah. A bar and a church, of course.

    Most people know each other, serve on the library board help the elder neighbors, band together for more clout at city council meetings, and so on.

    Suburbs tend to lack that, except for the original town center.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-01-25 14:18

    Neighborhoods thrive on the same foundation as small towns: shared local institutions that sustain community life. The suburbs don’t sustain community life because are all boxed up in their cars driving to Wal-Mart and the strip malls and their far-flung workplaces. They don’t see each other at the corner store or the local park, because they don’t have such close-by shared spaces.

    Several small towns in South Dakota suffer similarly, because they become bedroom communities and don’t offer the Main Street jobs, shopping, and entertainment that bind their residents together.

    Suburbs and bedroom communities alike suffer from Kennedy’s thinking, the desire not to have lots of people around, at least not people to whom one has to answer or with whom one shares common space and common cause.

  10. Donald Pay 2020-01-25 16:52

    Each to his own. Some folks like rural areas or small towns. Some like medium-sized burgs, and some like mega-cities.

    I like small to medium-sized cities. They have to be big enough to have a library. Anywhere I live, the second day after I move in, I get a library card. I also like to be able to walk to grocery stores.

    My daughter likes both extremes. She loves rural living, as long as she can get to town from time to time. And she loves Beijing, where she lives in a hutong, a small isolated neighborhood with narrow, winding alleys and courtyard homes in the middle of the city. It’s old and traditional housing, most of which has been bulldozed into near extinction. The few such neighborhoods that remain have been upgraded with all the modern conveniences. Old Chinese families, ex-pats and some younger Chinese live there.

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